NFL

NFL AM: Peyton Manning Will Likely Retire After Super Bowl 50

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Super Bowl 50 likely the “last rodeo” for Peyton Manning:

Everything that we’ve seen points to this season being the last of Denver Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning’s illustrious, first-ballot Hall of Fame career. The decline in Manning’s ability and the inability to stay healthy became evident during the season as Manning missed a big chunk of the middle of the season and never looked like the great quarterback we expect him to be.

However all the speculation or sub-par play in the world doesn’t mean nearly as much as the conversation caught on camera between the Broncos great and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

“Hey, listen, this might be my last rodeo. So, it sure has been a pleasure,” Manning told the Patriots coach.

“You are a great competitor…” Belichick responded.

While fans of the Indianapolis Colts and Broncos will likely never see eye to eye with Patriots fans, the respect between Manning, Brady and Belichick for what each of the others mean to the game is evident. It’s pretty clear that all three men think about their place in NFL history and the legacy that they will leave, and the story for each will always be interwoven with the others.

There’s no question the two great quarterbacks are among the best we’ve ever seen, and Belichick can lay the same claim among coaching legends. While some will look back at the era as one of Patriots dominance, it can’t be discounted that Manning is now 3-1 against New England in Championship games, making Brady and the Patriots 1-5 against the Manning family in games with the word “championship” attached to it.

If this is the end, there’s no question we’re five years away from seeing Manning walk into Canton as one of the no-question, absolute locks to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

The 18-year veteran’s numbers are staggering, as Manning will finish with over 71,000 yards, and 539 touchdowns if he retires after Super Bowl 50. Whether the Broncos can handle the Carolina Panthers, who are on fire heading into the game is yet to be answered, but if they can the stage is set for a perfect end to one of the greatest careers any of us will ever witness.

We may one day look back at this run by Brady and Manning as a golden era of quarterback play. If the man in the middle of football’s first family could walk away from the Super Bowl’s golden anniversary game with the Lombardi Trophy, it would be a storybook ending like no other. For Manning to go from the standard bearer at the position to backing up Brock Osweiler, only to get his job back just in time to lead his team to a Super Bowl title, that would be the kind of story we watch sports for.

Philip Rivers contemplated retirement before 2015:

This past offseason when there was some talk that the San Diego Chargers could try to move up in the NFL Draft to get into the Marcus Mariota sweepstakes, many were shocked that the team would consider moving on from veteran quarterback Philip Rivers.

Now we’re learning that San Diego might have been thinking quarterback because Rivers was considering moving on from the team instead. Speaking after the team’s finale, the 12-year veteran revealed that he considered hanging it up before the 2015 season.

“Physically, last year, I didn’t know if I was going to play,” Rivers said after the Chargers’ season-ending loss in Denver. “I mean really, physically, I was like, ‘I may not even play football anymore.’ This year, physically, I’m great. Emotionally, it’s been rough, but I’m excited — I really am excited about who the new core is going to be. I’m excited to be part of that group. I’m waiting for it, kind of letting them take it. … It’s not going to be the buddies I came with; they’re going to be gone.”

Despite San Diego’s 4-12 finish, Rivers seems optimistic about where the team is headed, and while the pieces around him are changing, he likes the attitude and the want to of the Chargers new core.

“I am excited about the group because they care,” Rivers said. “If you don’t have that characteristic, forget it. I know they care, and they’re pretty dang good football players, so let’s go. Let’s get healthy. Let’s add a few pieces and let’s go.”

San Diego has a ways to go before they’re ready to compete with the AFC’s elite teams next season, but if the players around him do their job, you know they’ll get the best out of Rivers, and they’ll be really happy he decided not to retire.

San Francisco 49ers hire Jim O’Neil as defensive coordinator:

The San Francisco 49ers have found themselves a defensive coordinator. After Chip Kelly offered the job to Houston Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel who politely said, “thanks, but no thanks,” the team was forced to look for a Plan-B.

Enter Jim O’Neil.

While O’Neil might be Plan-B, he spent the last two seasons in the same role for the Cleveland Browns. On the one hand you could argue that isn’t a good thing because Cleveland hasn’t been very good defensively the last two seasons. On the other hand, at least he’s a guy who has some experience as a coordinator.

The former Browns defensive coordinator finds himself in an unenviable positon. While he has one of only 32 defensive coordinator positions in the NFL, having to be the defensive coordinator for Chip Kelly has to be a real pain in the…..I’m not sure what my editor will allow me to write there, but you get the point.

While there’s plenty of reason to wonder if a Kelly led team’s offensive line can be at their best at the end of a season, there should be equal concern about what the offenses’ pace does to the defensive side of the ball. With Kelly’s offense quickly coming on and off the field whether successful or not, the refusal to even try to maintain some time of possession means the defense will spend too much time on the field.

We’re still waiting to see if Kelly’s offense can work long term in the NFL. The former Eagles coach saw his yards-per-play average plummet each year during his run in Philadelphia. Once again, NFL defenses caught up to the next cute gimmick. There’s no proof that Kelly’s system can’t work in the NFL, but it’s going to take a special guy running the defense for San Francisco to play well enough to compete. We’ll see O’Neil can be that guy very soon, because the offense isn’t going to slow down whether it should or not.


About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.